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Tactical Analysis | How a Rooney-less Manchester United demolished Leicester City

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Tactical Analysis | How a Rooney-less Manchester United demolished Leicester City

Manchester United hammered Leicester 4-1 in a breathtaking first half, condemning the Champions to their third loss of the season.

Jose Mourinho's men were at their devastating best as they blew away defending Champions Leicester in a whirlwind first half. The home crowd were also able to witness Paul Pogba's talents in full flow as United put four past Leicester within the first 40 minutes. A late thunderbolt from Demarai Gray only served as a consolation for Leicester City as the match ended with a scoreline of 4-1 in favour of United.

How they started:

Manchester United XI (4-2-3-1): David De Gea; Antonio Valencia, Eric Bailly, Chris Smalling, Daley Blind; Ander Herrera, Paul Pogba; Jesse Lingard, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford; Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Mourinho seemed to have struck gold with this new combination as United, who looked like a clunky waggon until the game against Northampton Town, suddenly transformed into a well-oiled machine. While Ander Herrera pulled the strings in the middle, Juan Mata caused plenty of problems for the Leicester back line with his trickery. Marcus Rashford excelled on the right wing and Jesse Lingard redeemed himself after his poor performance against Manchester City.

Leicester City XI (4-4-2): Ron-Robert Zieler; Danny Simpson, Wes Morgan, Robert Huth, Christian Fuchs; Riyad Mahrez, Daniel Amartey, Danny Drinkwater, Marc Albrighton; Jamie Vardy, Islam Slimani

Claudio Ranieri seemed to remain composed on the touchline watching his side being ripped to shreds by United, but he might have bit his tongue once the first half ended at 4-0. Daniel Amartey clearly reminded his manager why letting go N'golo Kante was a mistake, while Islam Slimani could not make the least of the chances that came along his way. Even last season's heroes Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez were off their pace. 

Axe-wielding Mourinho has set things rights

Ahead of the match, Jose Mourinho had made it clear that being the club captain does not give Wayne Rooney any special privilege when it comes to team selection. The England international being dropped was on the cards before the game, and Mourinho seemed to have found the perfect balance with his lineup by dropping his No.10. It was also refreshing to see United walk onto the pitch without Marouane Fellaini's blonde afro as Ander Herrera played the perfect foil for Paul Pogba.

With Rooney out of the team, Juan Mata seamlessly slotted into the No. 10 position. The Spaniard was the focal point of every United attack with his work rate and trickery. His movement was too much to handle for Wes Morgan, and Daley Blind overlapping runs made life difficult for Danny Simpson. Mata capped his superb performance with a sumptuous curling effort following a slick passing move from United, which he had initiated.

Marouane Fellaini's inclusion in the previous matches only meant that Paul Pogba will never have the freedom, and it was a treat to watch the Frenchman unleash his best against Leicester City as Ander Herrera replaced the Belgian in the middle. Pogba was at his brilliant best, and Herrera's crisp passing gave Mata, Rashford, and Blind to operate smoothly in the attack. Danny Drinkwater and Daniel Amartey's incompetence made Hererra's job all that easier in the engine room.

Daley plays a Blinder

Another inspirational change by Jose Mourinho is moving the Dutchman to the left side of the defence following an injury to Luke Shaw and Chris Smalling's return to the side. Blind embraced this change in position with open arms as he was directly or indirectly responsible for three of United's four first-half goals. 

Often, he hugged the by-line giving United width down the left side and sent in devilish crosses into the box. His link up with Jesse Lingard often sent Riyad Mahrez scampering across the pitch while defensively his handling of the Algerian was near perfect. His overlapping runs often overloaded the left wing for Leicester City allowing Marcus Rashford to sneak into the spaces left by Robert Huth and Christian Fuchs on the other flank.

After watching Blind taking the corners, one might wonder why was Rooney assigned the wrong task all this while. He took the corner with utmost precision and three of his corners had led to goals which might mean a spell on the sidelines for others in the position.

First half indiscipline costs Leicester

After the first quarter of the opening half had passed away, it was clear who was in the driving seat. Jamie Vardy and Islam Slimani made a mess of their chances in the first few minutes which allowed the hosts to put their plan into execution. While United charged into the Leicester half at lightning pace, last season's best defence constantly failed to position themselves properly.

Last season, Leicester choked the opposition by attacking the ball once they moved the ball past the half line. Each player kept a watch out for their teammate standing in front of him, thus closing down the runs of attackers. The two lines of defence, which Ranieri draws across the pitch, clearly got their timing wrong as they tried being too clever by allowing United too much time on the ball.

Leicester's falling into defence quickly, allowed United ample time and space to move the ball.
Poor marking from Leicester made United's third goal look like a training ground drill

Most importantly, Ibrahimovic, who did not make the headlines in this match, showed his creative efficiency by constantly dropping deep to receive the ball which gave Robert Huth and Daniel Amartey a nightmare in marking the Swede. Further, their failure to mark players inside the box during the set-pieces led to their downfall. They seemed rattled after the first goal and gave away the second and third goals cheaply with some really poor marking. 

For a team which owed their success to their disciplined defence, it was sad to see Leicester unravel after an early goal. The third goal of United looked like a training drill exercise as Daley Blind's corner was just a pass that grazed the by-line as Simpson let go of Mata unmarked, and Marcus Rashford stabbed from point-blank range. Removal of the ineffectual Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez shored up the defence for Leicester in the second half, but the match was already out of their reach.

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